FCUK must reconnect with British shoppers in a saturated market

Stephan Shakespeare
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“Consumers tend to view FCUK as producing good quality products” (Source: Getty)

On Monday, news emerged regarding high-street retailer French Connection. The brand announced that it may be up for sale, prompting shares in the fashion chain to rise 25 per cent to 55p. Following on from speculation last weekend, the firm said it was “reviewing all strategic options” – one of which is a sale.

French Connection has made a loss for each of the last five years. The brand is not performing in the same way it did during the 1990s, in which t-shirts emblazoned with the ‘FCUK’ slogan were ubiquitous around the UK.

Read more: French Connection shares rocket as it looks for a buyer

There is speculation that founder Stephen Marks could sell his share of the company. Sport’s Direct founder Mike Ashley holds a 27 per cent stake.

YouGov BrandIndex data shows where the brand has struggled in recent years, especially against ‘fast-fashion’ rivals, and those that trade exclusively online.

Of the 56 brands that YouGov tracks in the high-street fashion sector, French Connection finds itself in 47th place in terms of value for money score (minus six) among the general public. Brands such as Zara (five), H&M (17) have healthier scores. However, when we consider FCUK’s impression score, we see it is actually quite healthy (at nine). It does however lag behind Zara (16) and H&M (21) on this metric. Another positive is that consumers tend to view FCUK as producing good quality products. Its quality score nowstands at six, which does compare well to its high-street rivals.

Read more: French Connection founder is reviewing potential sale, company confirms

Indeed it is 14th in our list of fashion brands on this rating.

This may indicate that while FCUK is generally well-liked – possibly due to the strong brand awareness and connection with customers it achieved in its heyday, potential shoppers are being attracted by cheaper prices offered by other mid-market companies.

Whether a new buyer emerges remains to be seen, but it will face a steep challenge in returning the brand to its former glories, especially in the face of well-documented challenges that are facing the high-street retail industry at the moment.

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